The purpose of the Scrum Master is to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the Scrum team. It’s an important accountability for the success of the Scrum team, and yet, it is surprising that many people are uncertain about the qualities they should seek when hiring a Scrum Master. An ideal Scrum Master should possess expertise in the Scrum framework as well as complimentary practices, demonstrate servant leadership qualities, and prioritize continuous improvement for the Scrum team. Additionally, the Scrum Master should be a good fit for your organization’s culture. For a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of a great Scrum Master, I recommend reading my recent article titled "10 Characteristics of an Outstanding Scrum Master." In this piece, we will present ten interview questions that will aid you in selecting the perfect Scrum Master for your team.
1. Can you explain your understanding of the Scrum framework?
- Why I ask: It’s true; this one is a bit of a weed-out question. When I am asking this question, I am clearly assessing the candidate's foundational knowledge of Scrum and ensuring they have a clear understanding of its principles and values. Additionally, the Scrum Master should be able to explain the Scrum framework simply for those on the Scrum team who may be new to the Scrum framework.
- A good answer: A good answer covers the five events, 3 accountabilities and 3 artifacts of Scrum.
- A great answer: Includes concepts such as iterative, incremental delivery, self management, and continuous improvement.
- A bad answer: The Scrum Master is unable to explain the Scrum framework briefly and simply.
2. What is the role of Managers in Scrum?
- Why I ask: I want to make sure that any Scrum Master that we bring into the organization will work in partnership with the management team.
- A good answer: A good answer acknowledges that the Scrum framework does not explicitly include any responsibilities for Managers, and yet, Managers are important in the sense that they support the Scrum team and focus on empowering the Scrum team through culture, impediment removal and recognizing and growing the team. The Scrum Master can work with the Management team closely to remove impediments and ensure that Developers have access to the resources that they need to deliver a done increment each Sprint.
- A great answer: Demonstrates the Scrum Master’s enthusiasm for helping Managers to support the Scrum team.
- A bad answer: Scrum Masters who demonstrate that they are not open to building bridges with the management team or who state that there is no role for Managers in supporting the Scrum team.
3. How do you facilitate collaboration and communication within a Scrum Team?
- Why I ask: This question evaluates the candidate's ability to foster effective collaboration and communication among team members.
- A good answer: A good answer highlights techniques the Scrum Master uses to promote open communication, such as conducting daily stand-ups, organizing retrospectives, and encouraging cross-functional teamwork.
- A great answer: Talks about how the Scrum framework itself eliminates the need for other meetings when it is applied well.
- A bad answer: A bad answer might focus on individual tasks and responsibilities rather than team collaboration, or may lack specific examples of communication practices.
4. How do you handle conflicts or disagreements within a Scrum Team?
- Why I ask: This question assesses the candidate's conflict resolution skills and their ability to maintain a harmonious team environment.
- A good answer: A good answer demonstrates the Scrum Master's proficiency in facilitating discussions, actively listening to different perspectives, and encouraging collaborative problem-solving.
- A great answer: Talks about how the Scrum Master may use complimentary practices such as team agreements to enable the team to decide how to handle disagreements. The candidate may talk about recognizing the different levels of conflict. The Scrum Master may escalate to leadership if the conflict becomes unhealthy.
- A bad answer: A bad answer might suggest avoiding conflicts altogether or imposing decisions without considering the team's input, or may lack examples of conflict resolution strategies.
5. How do you ensure that the Scrum Team remains focused on delivering value and meeting Sprint Goals?
- Why I ask: This question gauges the candidate's strategies for keeping the team aligned with Sprint Goals and delivering value to stakeholders.
- A good answer: A good answer talks the importance of establishing a Sprint Goal at the Sprint Planning event every Sprint and monitoring whether the team is able to deliver a done increment which meets the Sprint Goal every Sprint. The candidate may mention that the purpose of each Sprint is to deliver a done increment which meets the Sprint Goal every Sprint. The candidate may also talk about backlog refinement (so that higher ordered Product Backlog items are sized such that they can be completed within one Sprint) and helping the team maintain a sustainable pace. Alternatively, the candidate may talk about measuring value and not busyness.
- A great answer: The candidate may talk about the fact that the Sprint Goal is a step towards the Product Goal. The candidate may talk about measuring value using outcome-based metrics or Evidence-based metrics.
- A bad answer: A bad answer may prioritize individual tasks over value delivery or lack concrete examples of how the Scrum Master supports the team in meeting Sprint Goals. Alternatively, the Scrum Master may appear passive and not focused on value delivery.
6. How do you promote continuous improvement within the Scrum Team?
- Why I ask: This question assesses the candidate's commitment to fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
- A good answer: A good answer showcases the Scrum Master's involvement in retrospectives, their encouragement of experimentation, and their ability to facilitate feedback loops for team growth.
- A great answer: Demonstrates that the Scrum Master is able to diagnose potential improvement areas for the Scrum team and design custom Retrospectives which help the team identify solutions for their specific problem areas.
- A bad answer: A bad answer might neglect the importance of continuous improvement or lack specific examples of actions taken to promote it within the team. In the worst answers, the Scrum Master is open to skipping the Retrospective. Run!
7. How do you collaborate with the Product Owner to ensure effective product backlog management?
- Why I ask: This question evaluates the candidate's ability to collaborate with the Product Owner and support them in their efforts around Product Backlog management.
- A good answer: A good answer demonstrates the Scrum Master's understanding of the Product Owner accountability, emphasizing their commitment to providing guidance, facilitating backlog refinement sessions, and helping prioritize items based on value.
- A great answer: Provides examples of a time when the Product Owner helped the Product Owner to identify a technique which made it easier for the Product Owner to manage the Product Backlog. Techniques can be anything from adopting the user story format, using Epics and Features, or designing a custom Scrum board which met the Product Owner’s needs and also met the needs of the Scrum team as well.
- A bad answer: A bad answer may overlook the collaboration aspect with the Product Owner or show a lack of understanding of the backlog management process.
8. Give me an example of a time when you handled resistance or skepticism towards Scrum within an organization?
- Why I ask: This question assesses the candidate's change management and leadership skills, as well as their ability to address organizational resistance.
- A good answer: A good answer highlights the Scrum Master's approach to educating stakeholders, addressing concerns, and fostering a culture of transparency to gain buy-in and support for Scrum practices.
- A great answer: Shows the Scrum Master’s success in using Scrum to deliver value within the organization effectively.
- A bad answer: A bad answer might demonstrate a lack of experience or skills in managing resistance or provide an ineffective approach that fails to address skepticism.
9. Tell me about a time when you measured and tracked the team's progress and effectiveness.
- Why I ask: This question evaluates the candidate's ability to monitor team performance and make data-driven decisions.
- A good answer: A good answer showcases the Scrum Master's knowledge of metrics, such as sprint burndown charts, velocity, and lead time, and their utilization of these metrics to identify areas for improvement and track the team's progress.
- A great answer: Talks about ensuring that the Scrum team doesn’t just measure responsiveness but also measures progress towards their goals using metrics specific to the product that they are working on. A Scrum team who supports a consumer products website may track things like load time or shopping cart abandonment. In addition, a great answer may reference things like outcome-based metrics vs. output metrics or may reverence Evidence-based management.
- A bad answer: A bad answer may lack awareness of relevant metrics or fail to demonstrate how the Scrum Master used data to measure and track team progress.
10. How do you ensure that Scrum practices are continuously followed and adhered to by the team?
- Why I ask: This question assesses the candidate's commitment to maintaining Scrum's integrity and ensuring consistent adoption across the team.
- A good answer: A good answer emphasizes the Scrum Master's role in coaching and educating the team, facilitating events as requested or needed, and promoting the Scrum framework to maximize value delivery.
- A bad answer: A bad answer may overlook the importance of consistent Scrum adoption or fail to demonstrate specific methods used by the Scrum Master to enforce adherence.
The Scrum Master accountability is critical to the success of the Scrum team. Great Scrum Masters must fit in with the organizational culture and also be focused on continuous improvement for the Scrum team. It’s important that the individual that is identified for the Scrum Master accountability has positivity, is a Servant leader will help the team to maximize value delivery by applying scrum effectively within the parent organization. Do you have a great Scrum Master interview question? Please leave it in the comments!
To learn more about the Scrum Master accountability, signup for Rebel Scrum’s Professional Scrum Master class.